Illinois’ top elected law enforcement officer is calling on police to be licensed by the state. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul told Chicago public radio station WBEZ this week that he thinks police should be licensed like hair dressers, tattoo parlors, teachers, doctors and restaurants in the state to help curb bad police behavior and to possibly prevent further deaths of civilians at the hands of police during an arrest.
Raoul says it’s due to time for those who carry the ability to practice deadly force to be able to prosecuted for crimes. “We need consistency. The type of policy change we need will bring real consequence to bad actors, that will get around collective bargaining agreements, get around provisions in local and state law that make it such that people are afraid to report incidents on police.”
Raoul was a state senator in Chicago when he helped sponsor a criminal justice bill that created a system in the state for police to use body cameras, prohibited the use of police choke-holds and created a database of officers who were fired or resigned due to misconduct. The bill was ultimately signed by former Governor Bruce Rauner after the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.
Raoul told WBEZ a state licensing system would ensure that officers with repeated misconduct claims could have their licenses pulled — regardless of how discipline is handled in a police union contract — and they would then be forbidden from continuing to do police work in another city. Raoul argued that such a system could have helped prevent the deaths of George Floyd and Laquan McDonald. Raoul is expected to begin a dialogue in the coming weeks with the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police on setting up the stand-alone licensing process or possibly amending the current certification process for officers in the state.
Raoul also joined New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday last week in sending an official letter to Congress asking for more authority to investigate and prosecute unconstitutional policing of citizens. Raoul and a coalition of others are asking for an expansion of the Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act of 1994 in place of the U.S. Department of Justice. Raoul has been critical of the DOJ for stripping the enforcement mechanisms of upholding consent decrees against police departments for bad actions.